GEIST asserts to be the world’s first artist-owned music recording label. They have released several music NFTs on the BSV blockchain, and has recently been more active in the community with the launch of Relay Club. I had the opportunity to catch up with founder Shirish Sarkar.
GEIST: The world's first artist-owned music recording label.
Let's recap what we've accomplished so far:
— 𝐆𝐞𝐢𝐬𝐭™ (@____geist____) January 20, 2023
For those who are unaware, what exactly is GEIST?
Shirish Sarkar: GEIST is a music recording label that is completely tokenized. We have a fungible token called GSTC which is given to both artists and customers. This allows for both the audience and the artists to be aligned in their incentives and foster the continued growth of the project. We also have an NFT set of membership cards, which allow members to receive airdrops of music and art on the label and access our token-enabled platforms and services.
Essentially, GEIST seeks to use the distributive, globalized potential of the internet to foster a localized, dedicated community. Our thesis is that an artist only needs one thousand loyal fans to make an honest, middle class living. GEIST seeks to prove that through a business structure that we hope can be copied by a myriad of independent labels in the years to come, making the experience of buying music and supporting artists fun again.
Why have you been more active in the BSV community over the past couple of months?
Shirish Sarkar: I originally conceived of a music label using BitCoin in 2018, but it took a while for me to understand its economics and structure of it practically. I also needed to meet and speak to people who could level up my technical understanding of BitCoin. We started releasing full albums as NFTs last September and have formalized the structure of the business more recently with the launch of Relay Club.
Why have you listed your music NFTs for such a low price (below $1)?
Shirish Sarkar: It is our goal to have a low entry point into the GEIST ecosystem, such that customers can act as distributors or entrepreneurs themselves through the products we make. The goal is to foster a much more meaningful relationship between consumers and artists. We have already seen people buy multiple copies of our music for very cheap and then try to resell a few copies, undercutting our own list price, while the label collects a royalty. We believe this model has a lot more lasting potential as we continue to release more music.
Since switching to our membership card system, we’ve been airdropping all digital music to our cardholders for free. As a result, cardholders can now value and price the music as they see fit.
What is the purpose of the GEIST membership cards?
Shirish Sarkar: The first five catalogued GEIST albums were released as individual NFTs for sale, mostly as an experiment. But we eventually decided that a better idea would be to utilize airdrops to reward customers for becoming a part of our project.
We conceptualized a ‘club,’ where customers would pay a one-time entry to receive a membership card NFT, upon which they would receive a share of GSTC token. From now on, we intend to airdrop all of our digital music tokens and art directly to the holders of these cards, thereby giving them the opportunity to become distributors of the work. They are free to exchange and value them as they wish.
The card also enables access to our tokenized site—geist.live. This is a video platform where we will be streaming live performances, DJ sets, host conversations, live coding tutorials, and much more—all only accessible by holding a GEIST membership card.
How does Bitcoin enable independent music artists or record labels to earn compared to the traditional industry?
Shirish Sarkar: There has been much said on this topic as regards [to] micropayments and programmable contracts, and I look forward to seeing more innovative uses of this technology. The only thing I would like to add to the conversation at this time is that BitCoin allows for the entire process of earning royalties off creative work to be simple.
On BitCoin, ownership is simple and verifiable. Tokenization allows for contractual agreements to be simple and trustless. NFTs allow for novel earning structures and new ways to connect with audiences. All of this together brings about a new paradigm where many more people will be able to earn for their work, turning a top-down, hegemonic pyramid-like structure into numerous small galaxies.
What are your thoughts on paying a micropayment each time a song is played, as streamable.fm has implemented?
Shirish Sarkar: I think it’s a great idea. I believe this is the future for the wider music-listening audience, and I have my own developing ideas for implementing it.
What is the purpose of the GSTC fungible token?
Shirish Sarkar: GSTC, or GEIST token, is a representation of the label itself. The token is given to artists when they sign deals with the label for distribution rights, and it is so far given one time directly to customers who have purchased a membership card from the label. The token is never sold to the public by the GEIST label entity.
GSTC is currently in development to act as an automated, tokenized revenue split, similar to other apps within the midasvalley.net ecosystem. This means that all holders of this token are entitled to receive their share of the revenue within the GEIST entity wallet (16HmWbtsXxjtQNRcYpeRA39JR1qPyoxVBx) at some fixed interval, such as every quarter. As this system is still being developed and is financial in nature, I would point any interested parties to the GitHub repository where the GEIST whitepaper is being published.
However, even now, people within the GEIST Club are using the token to make deals for the benefit of the label. The latest single from @1Freenauts was brought onto the club by the combined efforts of two members who each paid an amount of their own personal GSTC to make it happen. I myself paid an outside developer in GSTC to contract them in assisting me with building out the geist.live site. And still, others have chosen to sell the token right away.
You wrote a great article on how you onboarded a teenager onto BSV via NFT sales. Could you talk through how effective it is to onboard users this way?
Shirish Sarkar: I appreciate you reading that. It is clearly written for a non-Bitcoiner audience, but I think the gist is that BitCoin is immediately and obviously effective to those who are looking for something novel and creative. With no preconceptions or ideology other than ‘I want to make money,’ this young girl was able to acclimate to what we’ve all been led to believe is the world’s most niche economy. And yet, within an hour she already had the recipe to continue to make money, if she chose to iterate on the process.
It speaks to the limitless potential everyone has to do something cool and interesting on BitCoin, if they know they can. All they need to do is ask themselves what they can bring to the table.
What are your thoughts on the Boost protocol by Daniel Krawisz?
Shirish Sarkar: BoostPOW and pow.co are, in many ways, the seed that sprouted GEIST. The Boost protocol itself is ingenious, and I recommend all go read Daniel’s writings on the subject, but the greatest benefit for me has been attuning my brain to listen to costly signals. Using and understanding Boost alleviates the mental and social noise in one’s life. The pow.co developer cooperative works through using GitHub issues that are then boosted so that developers can narrow their focus on what is most important.
Similarly, GEIST also operates around a GitHub repository and uses issues that can be boosted. The work ethic and practice of Daniel and pow.co has been immensely beneficial for me to absorb, and I am glad that GEIST is a small part of that system.
Privately, we have discussed a potential game for the Haste Arcade—is this under the GEIST umbrella?
Shirish Sarkar: I am very excited for this and future games to come! GEIST has a fraternal relationship with another project, a game studio called Worldbuilder. We are currently building out the infrastructure for WB and hope to have our first game—Flutter—on Haste Arcade very soon. The protagonist of Flutter is, in fact, the very mascot of GEIST themself—Geistie the ghost! In the meantime, please visit worldbuilder.us and input your email to stay in touch.
What else is the GEIST team working on?
Shirish Sarkar: We continue to build on our different platforms while making and releasing music and digital art. We are in constant contact with club members and their insights push the rules of our little game, creating novel experiences and we’re all having a lot of fun with it! I am grateful to have such an intelligent and thoughtful community working with and around us.
In the near future, you can expect more airdrops from us, as well as physical merchandise like shirts, posters, and stickers—and eventually vinyl’s, cassettes, etc. Our platforms will become more robust and unique, providing singular experiences that will allow us to onboard other artists who are not familiar with BitCoin.
We are always looking to push the envelope and be creative in new ways, and BitCoin is the best canvas in the world. And as time goes on and GEIST matures, I look forward to just being another artist on the label.
Thank you, Sarkar, for taking the time to answer my questions. I hope the readers learned more about GEIST.
Check out their NFTs, art and music at: https://relayx.com/1geist
Watch: Music & Blockchain
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